January 24, 2008

Complicit

I've argued in the past that when a newspaper gives a platform to Hamas it is strengthening an organization whose values are at odds with the values that a newspaper stands for.

This week we saw something much worse. Newspapers actively aided Hamas in its effort to open the Rafah crossing this week.

Yesterday, the Times of London reported that the plan to knock down the Rafah wall was underway for months. (via memeorandum)

Hamas, which took control of the coastal territory last June after a stand-off with Fatah, has denied that its men set off the explosions that brought down as much as two-thirds of the 12-km wall in the early hours.

But a Hamas border guard interviewed by The Times at the border admitted that the Islamist group was responsible and had been involved for months in slicing through the heavy metal wall using oxy-acetylene cutting torches.

Given the amount of time that was clearly invested in the effort to collapse the wall, it's not surprising to learn 'Hamas staged some of the blackouts' (via memeorandum)

In the first case, journalists who were invited to cover the Hamas government meeting were surprised to see Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and his ministers sitting around a table with burning candles.

In the second case on Tuesday, journalists noticed that Hamas legislators who were meeting in Gaza City also sat in front of burning candles.

But some of the journalists noticed that there was actually no need for the candles because both meetings were being held in daylight.

(I really don't think that you needed a news story, anyone with half a functioning brain could see that candles were often not needed but were mere props used for effect.)

Not only did international pressure help Hamas accomplish this goal of opening the border with Egypt, it also weakened Israel's attempt to prevent rockets from being fired at its cities.

The New York Times remains clueless, an editorial Trapped in Gaza starts:

The neglect and mistreatment of the 1.5 million Palestinians trapped in the Gaza Strip is a disgrace, and a very dangerous one. They are pawns in the struggle among Hamas, which controls Gaza and uses the territory to bombard Israel daily; its rivals in the Fatah movement that run the Palestinian Authority and the West Bank; and Israel. If something isn’t done quickly to address the Gazans’ plight, President Bush’s Annapolis peace process could implode.

It isn't the Gazans plight that works against the peace process. It is the failure of the Palestinians to accept Israel. If the Palestinians accepted Israel, they'd turn their energies and resources to creating a civil society that would live in peace with Israel. As long as Palestinian grievances are nurtured there will be no peace and the terror against Israel is justified. The Palestinians voted for Hamas, so they're not exactly innocent either.

It's also worth noting that the Qassams increased in freqency after Israel withdrew from Gaza. Moves designed to bring peace often backfire. Without Israeli troops around to hinder them, rocket makers flourished in Gaza. The problem isn't misery, but opportunity.

The Times continues:

It is no wonder that tens of thousands of Palestinians rushed out of Gaza into Egypt on Wednesday after a metal border wall was toppled. Life for Gazans, never easy, has been worsening since Hamas seized control last summer, and most international aid — except humanitarian assistance — was cut off. Hamas has turned a deaf ear to the Gazans’ plight, refusing to negotiate peace or accept Israel’s right to exist.

The logic here is baffling. Poll after poll shows support among Palestinians for violence against Israel. Hamas has heard Gazans (indeed all Palestinians) quite well. They don't accept Israel's right to exist (neither do members of "moderate" Fatah for that matter) and Hamas represents those views quite effectively.

The Washington Post (h/t Backspin) gets a lot closer to the truth.

THE HAMAS movement provided a dramatic illustration yesterday of its ability to disrupt any movement toward peace between Israelis and Palestinians. As tens of thousands of residents of the Gaza Strip surged across the border into Egypt, Hamas security forces directed traffic; earlier, they stood by as organized groups of militants blew up the fence along the previously sealed border. As Hamas no doubt expected, the government of Egypt greeted this illegal invasion with a quick surrender: President Hosni Mubarak announced that Gazans would be allowed to shop in Egypt because they "are starving due to the Israeli siege."

In fact, as Mr. Mubarak well knows, no one is starving in Gaza -- though food, fuel and cigarettes are much cheaper across the border. Israel closed its border with the territory and disrupted power supplies over the weekend in response to a massive escalation of Palestinian rocket launches from Gaza at nearby Israeli towns -- between Tuesday and Saturday last week, some 225 rockets were aimed at the town of Sderot, where more than 20,000 Israelis have been relentlessly terrorized. Hamas took advantage of the blockade first by arranging for sympathetic Arab media to document the "humanitarian crisis," then by daring Egypt to use force against Palestinian civilians portrayed as Israel's victims. Its ultimate goal, stated publicly yesterday by Damascus-based leader Khaled Meshal, is to force Egypt to permanently reopen the border in cooperation with Hamas; that would greatly diminish Israel's ability to respond to rocket attacks with economic sanctions, and it would undermine the rival Palestinian leadership of Mahmoud Abbas.

My one quibble with this is singling out the "sympathetic Arab media" for blame. The international media - including the Washington Post - were complicit in assisting Hamas achieve its goals.

So maybe you could argue that the media were duped. Maybe. But Israel Matzav and Elder of Ziyon figured out the goal of the riots a day before Hamas knocked down the wall. My guess is that reporters on the ground at least heard whispers from their sources about what was to happen. Even if they didn't have definite knowledge of that action, it's hard to believe that they couldn't have put things together. Still they promoted the "blackout" myth without regard to the possibility that it was a cover for something else.

Elder of Ziyon is right when he writes:

So when the media talk about how Hamas won the PR war with Israel, it is a bit disingenuous of them not to admit their own responsibility for that victory - the news organizations are not only susceptible to obvious staging, they welcome being manipulated if they can get a good picture or story out of it.

Similarly Simply Jews observes:

Somebody should tell the august leader writer of The Guardian that when the “leader” starts with a lie, the featured article becomes just merchandise sold at a loss in order to draw customers.

In this whole sorry chapter, the media have played a shameful role as accomplices to Hamas. I don't expect any introspection from them, which is a shame. Philip Graham famously said that newspapers were the "first rough draft of history" acknowledging the role of the media in reporting on events. I don't think he meant that newspapers would have a role in staging the events that would eventually become history. But that's what the media is doing.

UPDATE: See more at Buzztracker.

Crossposted on Yourish.

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Posted by SoccerDad at January 24, 2008 5:56 AM
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